Summary: How Tim Zingale, forced out by his church because of his disability, became used by God in amazing ways. A sermon on Philippians 2.
“For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pressure”
I’d like to talk to you about someone really special to me - though I have never met him. You know him too, though you don’t know you know him and you have never met him. His name is Pastor Tim Zingale, a Lutheran priest in America. He weaves stories together to tell sermons in the most engaging way. There are probably five people who have really shaped and influenced my preaching - and Fr Tim Zingale is one of them. And I have never met him. I am guessing you have never met him either. Yet over the last six years that you have heard me preach you have heard his stories woven into my sermons, and his influence even more woven in there. You know him though you have never met him.
Tim Zingale had Polio as a child - and throughout his life he had disabilities that grew steadily worse. In his twenties he had to wear a leg brace.
Very little of his preaching is about himself - so it took me ages to find this biographical detail -
“When I was in the senior year of college, I began applying for teaching jobs. It was later that In entered seminary, but I graduated from college with a BA in elementary education. I had an interview on campus with a superintendent of a school system. It was a good interview and at the end he offered me a job teaching 4th graders. But he said that the school board would have to approve, but thought that would be no problem.
I left feeling confident that I had a job. My wife and I were engaged at the time and we planning a wedding as soon as I graduated. I had told the superintendent that I was going to my wife’s family for the weekend and he could contact me there with the final approval.
The phone rang, I answered and the superintendent told me that I did not get the job. He said the school board did not want some one like me teaching their kids.
His exact words were: “We don’t want someone like that teaching our kids”
Someone like what?
For he explained to them that I wore a long leg brace and used a cane for walking and they were afraid of my disability and would not hire me.
“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. “ (Phil 2:1-2)
Tim certainly did not experience compassion and sympathy or consolation from love from that superintendent - yet he following the example of Christ he humbled himself and served the children in the school where he finally got a job.
Tim went on to be ordained - where of course in the Church he would find “encouragement in Christ, …. consolation from love, ... sharing in the Spirit, ...compassion and sympathy,.... be[ing] of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” - wouldn’t he? Errr… no
Repeatedly he would be told by parishioners how the reason he wasn’t healed of his disability was because he didn’t have enough faith. Now I have seen a few amazing miracles in my life - and they are just that - miracles. It’s not because the person someohow earnt their healing through having the right amount of faith, or achieved their healing by using the right formula of prayer as if it were some sort of magical spell where you have to pronounce “Expectus Patronum” (2) in the right way or it will not work. I have also seen lots of people who were not healed. Tim was not healed.
But then Jesus - who was taunted “if you are son of God come down from the cross” (3) - Jesus who healed others -
“ emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7-8)
Pastor Tim continued to serve his people in his little church of 150 people - and as his disability worsened, he began to have to use a wheel chair as he celebrated mass. Of course his church supported him. They were full of sympathy and compassion. Errr no
There is a phrase that’s often said which is sadly so true of us - “Christians shoot their own wounded”. The American Marines may have a motto “no man left behind” - but we Christians often display the opposite pattern. We don’t like weakness. Especially in our leaders. We worship the God who made himself vulnerable “even to death on a cross” - (Phil 2:8) - yet we like our leaders to be handsome good looking success stories who will appear perfect on the front cover of Time Magazine. This was Tim Zingale’s experience. When he began to have to use a wheel chair for mass, his congregation turned on him. He was forced into early retirement.